Photo by Zach Bland/Auburn Tigers
Auburn and Arkansas have been at the top of the SEC standings fighting for the conference crown for the last several seasons now. Since, Eric Musselman took over the helm in Fayetteville prior to the 2019 season the two programs have led the SEC in overall wins, Arkansas with 85 and Auburn with 77, and this series has had some thrillers in the process. In 2020, it took a 23 point performance from Samir Doughty to help the Tigers over come a double digit deficit to defeat the Razorbacks in Bud Walton Arena. The 2021 covid season showdown was a game of stars with both Sharife Cooper and Desi Sills having 20+ point games in a two point victory for Arkansas on the road. And last years overtime thriller, featured a court storming upset for the Razorbacks at home against No. 1 Auburn. Despite all of the back and forth matchups in the series this game means even more for Auburn’s Arkansas native, Allen Flanigan.
"For me it's personal, being from Little Rock and them offering another kid over me so I never got an offer from my home state even though I was the No. 1 player in the state," Flanigan said. "It's personal to me to play against the Hogs."
Flanigan will take the floor tonight after one of this best performances of the season with 11 points, shooting 5-10 from the field, and 3 rebounds against the Bulldogs in Athens. It was Flanigan’s first double-figure performance since the Colgate game on Dec. 2 in what he hopes to become a bounce back season after an injury affected junior campaign. Flanigan’s counter part at the three position is yet another Arkansas native who is looking to make an impact with his expanded role this season.
"The day I committed to Auburn, the fan base went crazy on me, saying I was disloyal to the state," Moore said. "Beating them for the first time in three years would be amazing. It would definitely make my new year."
For the Tigers to pull off a win against the No. 13 ranked Razorbacks it’s going to require an improved performance from their loss in Athens 76-64 this past Wednesday night. Outside of Johni Broome’s big night against Georgia, the rest of the Tigers shot a combined 15-52 from the field. Auburn’s four guards also shot a combined 2-13 from deep and starting point guard Wendell Green Jr. had four turnovers to his name.
"The last couple of days, the guys have been pretty accountable,” said Head Coach Bruce Pearl. “There haven't been a lot of smiles. Our guys want to win. We had great preparation for Georgia, but we didn't win...We've had great preparation for Arkansas. But it's gonna take special."
Photo by Zach Bland/Auburn Tigers
The Razorbacks are led by transfer Ricky Council IV and McDonald’s All American Freshmen, Anthony Black and Jordan Walsh. Council is coming off of a 25 point performance in a come from behind win against Missouri this past Wednesday. Council is second in the conference with field goals made with 91 and 3rd in the league in scoring with an average of 18.4 points per game. Anthony Black, as a freshman, is second in the league in average minutes played with 34:16, only trailing his teammate Council with 35:20. Jordan Walsh has made an impact for the Razorbacks in his last five games with three double digit performances, an average of 10.6 points per game and an average of 5.2 rebounds per game.
"If you turn it over, you don't give your halfcourt defense a chance to win you games. That was the problem at Georgia, and Arkansas is even better at that,” Pearl said.
The Tiger’s have averaged 13.9 turnovers per game and have had double digit turnovers in their last six games. Arkansas on the other hand is 11th in D-I in steals per game with an average of 10.2 and Anthony Black is 11th in the league with 24 total steals and 1.71 steals per game along with Ricky Council IV ranking 13th in total steals in the SEC with 23.
"Can't wait to have you guys back, man. It's been a long month, month and a half without you guys. So glad we finally get everybody back. I know the Jungle is gonna be crazy going to the rest of SEC play,” Moore said about the return of Auburn students.
Tonight’s top 25 showdown will be the seventh ever in the history of Neville Arena with the Tigers holding a 5-1 record in those matchups. Tipoff between the No. 22 Tigers and No. 13 Razorbacks is scheduled for 7:30PM CST and all fans in attendance inside of Neville Arena have been asked to wear orange for the annual “All Auburn, All Orange” game. The game will be televised on the SEC Network and can be heard on the Auburn Sports Network.